Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Philosophy (MPHIL)


Political Sciences

First Advisor

Prof. BRIDGES, Brian

Second Advisor

Dr. CHAN Che-po


This thesis examines contemporary Sino-Japanese relations, in particular the Chinese policy towards the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands following the end of the Cold War. It answers the puzzle of why the territorial dispute emerged as such a divisive issue in the bilateral relations between China and Japan.

This thesis embraces a constructivist perspective of international relations and puts forward the concept of identity. Identity is understood here as the image of individuality and distinctiveness held by a state in international relations and by having an identity is to live and act according to the defining features of identity. Drawing upon discourse analysis of high politics in China, the thesis maps the changes of China’s self-understanding after 1989. Utilizing the Self/Other framework it emphasizes the role of Japan as the main Other against which the Chinese identity became defined.

The empirical part of the thesis maps the developments in the Chinese policy vis-a-vis Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, particularly the meanings attached to the disputed islands in China. Applying the Self/Other framework, it demonstrates a strong link between representations of China’s identity and policy towards the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands. China’s ‘hard-line’ policy vis-a-vis the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands could be understood as being driven by its ‘victimized’ identity. A strong response to the 2010 Incident including a continuous demand for apology, even though it damaged economic interests, was justified as in order to prevent further humiliations.

The findings of this research demonstrate that states are social actors, and that foreign policies cannot be reduced solely to the rational pursuit of material interests. By emphasizing the concept of identity, this thesis contributes to the constructivist scholarship in international relations as well as to literatures on territorial disputes and Sino-Japanese relations.

Recommended Citation

Viskupic, F. (2013). Japan as China's 'other': China's identity and policy towards Diaoyu/Senkaku islands (Master's thesis, Lingnan University, Hong Kong). Retrieved from